RIO GRANDE VALLEY – The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) Department of Intercollegiate Athletics announced five staff promotions on Tuesday, including Claire Cruz to Assistant Director of Athletic Communications, Eddie Galvan to Assistant Athletic Director for Tickets and Operations, Julia Perez to Assistant Athletic Director for Student-Athlete Services, Ryela Rodriguez to Assistant Director for Tickets and Operations, and Shane Venteicher to Associate Athletic Trainer.
Claire Cruz – Assistant Director of Athletic Communications
Cruz joined UTRGV’s athletic communications team in Jan. 2022 after spending four years as a local sports reporter for the Valley Morning Star and The Brownsville Herald. She serves as the primary media contact for volleyball, men’s and women’s tennis, track & field and cross country.
Her duties as the sport communicator for VB, M/WTEN, and TF/XC include writing game previews and recaps, press releases, managing the website, content creation, award nominations, and more. Cruz’s student-athletes have collected 36 weekly or monthly awards from the Western Athletic Conference (WAC).
Cruz’s storytelling highlights the achievements of the athletic department, student-athletes, coaches, and staff. In July, she was recognized by College Sports Communicators as the Fred Stabley Sr. Writing Contest District 6 Runner-Up in the Social Justice/Diversity & Inclusion category for her story on Jeanny Trahan, UTRGV’s first women’s athletic scholarship recipient. She also handles the live-clipping and live-tweeting for UTRGV’s broadcasted sports and major department events.
The Rio Hondo native got her start in sports media at The Daily Texan while studying journalism at The University of Texas at Austin. She was the beat writer for Texas’ national runner-up volleyball team in 2015, softball for two seasons, and men’s basketball, and earned a senior staff position. Cruz also worked with Texas High School Baseball for five years, covering prep baseball statewide.
Cruz has taken an active role in the College Sports Communicators association and is a member of the CSC Young Professionals and CSC Women committees. She is a passionate advocate for women in sports and shows great care for the student-athletes and staff she serves at UTRGV.
“I’m so proud to be a part of UTRGV Athletics and extremely grateful to work with such a special group of student-athletes, coaches and teammates,” Cruz said. “I wouldn’t be in this position without the endless guidance from Jonah Goldberg, Danny Elizondo and many others. I’m looking forward to telling many more stories about our incredible Vaqueros family.”
Eddie Galvan – Assistant Athletic Director for Tickets and Operations
After coming to UTRGV as the ticket sales and operations assistant in Aug. 2021, Galvan now makes his second jump in as many years to the Assistant Athletic Director for Ticket Sales and Operations role.
In addition to continuing to provide excellent service to current season ticket holders and contributing to increase the overall tickets revenue, Galvan will be taking the lead on planning and execution for football’s ticket sales and operations. He’ll have a hand in gameday logistics, ticket pricing, season ticket holder retention, seating assignments, staffing and box office operations for UTRGV Football. Galvan will continue to manage the ticket sales website, set up group visits to competitions and create relationships in the community to draw supporters to the Vaqueros.
During his tenure, Galvan has played an immeasurable role in UTRGV Athletics welcoming nearly 100,000 fans during the 2022-23 athletic year, leading to record ticket revenue and attendance records for multiple teams. Galvan facilitated ticket sales as UTRGV welcomed a program-record crowd of 6,418 when the Vaqueros baseball team hosted Texas in 2022, and when men’s basketball hosted a doubleheader including Texas at Bert Ogden Arena which drew nearly 7,000 fans. He is a key reason UTRGV Athletics has consistently hit department records such as overall ticket sales, season ticket holders and ticket revenue in recent years, but is quick to credit other staffers and the supporters for the success.
A graduate of Mission Veterans Memorial, Galvan completed his bachelor’s at UTSA and received his Master of Business Administration from UTRGV.
“Feeling the love and gratitude from fans I’ve built relationships with, and the positive feedback from our supporters and staff, keeps me motivated to put my best foot forward every day,” Galvan said. “The excitement for football across the RGV is palpable and I feel a real sense of responsibility to do my part to make sure our gameday experience is as smooth as possible at every event. I feel I have made a positive impact here at UTRGV and it’s great having senior leadership who recognizes that and pushes me to continue growing.”
Julia Perez – Assistant Athletic Director for Student-Athlete Services
Perez has been an integral part of the athletic department since 2012 – as a women’s tennis student-athlete (2012-16) and volunteer assistant coach, a compliance assistant, and, for the last four years, as a member of the student services staff. She earned the #RISEup award in November.
Perez organizes community service opportunities for the student-athletes, playing an instrumental role as the Vaqueros totaled 3,706 hours of community service in 2022-23 – ranking No. 7 among all NCAA Division I departments for a second-straight year finishing in the top 10.
She also oversees academics for both golf teams and men’s soccer, helping to produce Academic All-Americans in golf and improving the men’s soccer team GPA. Perez contributed to UTRGV’s student-athletes earning a department-record cumulative 3.32 GPA in the 2022-23 academic year, also accumulating 126 Academic All-WAC honors.
As the Assistant Athletic Director for Student-Athlete Services, Perez will handle academic oversight of the football program. She’ll continue to elevate the Life Skills programming for all student-athletes and to oversee the Victory Center tutors and Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, which she was the vice president for when she was a student-athlete.
The Roma native served as the women’s tennis co-captain, helping the program win its first WAC Tournament Championship and make the NCAA Tournament in 2016, while completing her bachelor’s. She later added a master’s degree from UTRGV. As a former student-athlete, she connects with the Vaqueros in a unique way, making her a stellar advisor.
“I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for my first coach, Stephanie Vallejos, who gave me the opportunity to represent then-UTPA as a student-athlete. I would like to thank Molly Castner for believing in me and trusting my work. Without her support, I would not have achieved the success I have today, and I look forward to working more closely with her,” Perez said. “I advise student-athletes from all over the world and I understand how difficult it is for them to leave home to chase their dreams. Watching them grow from the moment they get here to the day they walk across the stage receiving their diploma is a victory for me.”
Ryela Rodriguez – Assistant Director for Tickets and Operations
Rodriguez joined UTRGV’s ticket sales and operations team in May 2022 after beginning her professional career at the National Junior College Athletic Association’s National Office.
In her new role, Rodriguez will see her duties increase, particularly in community involvement and strategic development to build relationships and drive supporters to UTRGV. She oversees gameday and non-gameday operations and manages approximately 30 student workers.
Rodriguez is the point person for volleyball ticketing and facilitated a record-breaking 181 volleyball season ticket holders in 2022. Her efforts during the 2023 season led to a program-record average attendance of 1,234 fans per match and a record-setting seven crowds of 1,000+. UTRGV ranks second in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), fifth in Texas and 59th nationally in average attendance.
She has a knack for developing and executing multi-faceted plans and initiatives, such as the two School Day events UTRGV has hosted under Rodriguez’s direction. The first School Day, presented by Rio Bank, drew 2,786 fans to a women’s basketball game – the best crowd at the UTRGV Fieldhouse in nearly four years. On Sept. 12, the volleyball team defeated Incarnate Word in front of 2,167 fans on School Day, presented by Whataburger – the second-largest crowd in program history.
Rodriguez, a product of McAllen Rowe High School and Baylor, is a member of the Leadership Edinburg Class of XXXV. She leads with confidence and love for the community, eager to increase exposure of UTRGV Athletics. She aided the record ticket revenue in the 2022-23 athletic year, including nearly 100,000 fans entering UTRGV’s gates across multiple sports.
“I’m very thankful to Chasse Conque, Seth Jones and Eddie Galvan for believing in me and providing me with this opportunity,” Rodriguez said. “I knew working with UTRGV Athletics was going to be special and I feel lucky that I get to be a part of history and continue growing the department. My love for the community, and especially my desire to make an impact in the Valley through athletics, has contributed to this success.”
Shane Venteicher – Associate Athletic Trainer
Venteicher has been a part of UTRGV sports medicine since the spring of 2022 and oversees men’s soccer, track & field and cross country, traveling with those teams for competitions and administering treatment and rehabilitation.
In his new position as associate athletic trainer, Venteicher will oversee the new athletic training facility at the UTRGV Soccer and Track & Field Complex. He’s also taking on a mentorship role for new and student members of the sports med team.
Venteicher came to UTRGV after spending six years as the sports medicine director at Allen Community College, where he was responsible for one assistant and over 300 student-athletes. He has thorough knowledge with maintaining medical records and budgets, secondary insurance inquiries, policy and procedures and teaching. He also served as an adjunct professor at ACC.
Venteicher does a good job creating relationships with his student-athletes, coaches, support staff and administration to build the level of trust necessary for his role. His experience in the college football world, as a former team captain and starter for Simpson College, where he earned his Bachelor’s in Athletic Training, and as an assistant athletic trainer for Missouri Southern State’s football program will come in handy in the coming years.
His leadership abilities and abundant experience made this a natural move as UTRGV prepares for the increase of student-athletes on campus with women’s swimming & diving and football coming soon.
“I’m beyond excited to get this promotion. It shows that my devotion to UTRGV Athletics, UTRGV as a whole, and the Rio Grande Valley does not go unnoticed,” Venteicher said. “I want to thank Steven Kraus, Molly Castner and Chasse Conque for trusting in me and thinking I am deserving in my short time at UTRGV. Always have to thank my family, too. My mother and father made sacrifices throughout my life to ensure I have the best tools and opportunities to be successful in any way possible.”
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